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March 22nd, 2017

10 Essentials for an “Impossible” Product Development Timeline

While compressed product development can mean reducing a multi-year process to months, what happens when an innovative new product, its brand, and its introductory campaign must be developed within weeks? Lean development processes have shown that careful thought can pare away unnecessary steps while maintaining essentials like prototypes and customer feedback. Highly compressed, weeks-long, development cycles are only possible in certain product categories and require strategic input from the top, quick decision-making from the team managers, and the right skills within the development team. If you’re faced with an extraordinary schedule for bringing a product to market, here are 10 strategies to employ:

1. Maintain Strategic Input and Authority—Having a small team with direct access to senior executives gives you the authority to trim off any bureaucratic steps not required for the project.

2. Start with the Right Team—Including Vendors—Select outside resources at the outset and create early partnerships. Manufacturing vendors must be on the team from the beginning, along with marketing, design, engineering, and branding.

3. Define Brand Attributes and Design Criteria—Before the clock starts ticking, establish written brand attributes and design criteria. Design criteria should be prioritized and labeled “required” or “desired” appropriately. Brand attributes should be words with associated images for clarity.

4. Establish a Concentrated Project Plan and Schedule—The plan should be simple, concise, and clearly understood by the entire team.

5. Work Multi-Shift While Maintaining Connectivity—Co-location of the team can improve communication, and therefore impact schedules. But we’ve found that having teams in different time zones, like Asia and the US, can increase speed since work can continue around the clock. Wherever the team resides, make sure to maintain communications. Hold regular web meetings…and stay in touch and available until the project is complete.

6. Focus on the Big Unknowns First—The high-risk parts of the project may need a separate team operating on a parallel path that runs along with the rest of the project. This unknown might be a thorny engineering problem, a gap in customer input, or an unfamiliar manufacturing process. Schedule these efforts first, or they’ll come back and bite you later.

7. Take Advantage of Rapid Prototyping and Rapid Customer Validation—If your in-house capability doesn’t include rapid prototyping and customer validation, then partner with the right vendor early in the process to get these things done.

8. Reward Simple Solutions—Simple, elegant solutions, while difficult to achieve, are essential to the success of highly compressed product development programs.

9. Run Multiple, Parallel Processes—Design/engineering/testing can run as one holistic activity. Brand development and package design and introductory campaign can start during the product design phases. This helps align brand strategy with product attributes, and it compresses the timeframe to completion.

10. Give Up Perfection—Speedy innovation can be stagnated by the need for perfection. If your goal is to get a product to market fast, be adamant about meeting customer needs and expectations, but be flexible with most everything else.

Developing products in a matter of weeks is risky. But getting to market quickly can secure the big win. These steps will reduce your risks and improve chances of success.

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